In the US alone, over 15 million working days are lost each year due to tooth pain, while 12% of individuals say they suffer from sensitive teeth. Tooth pain and tooth sensitivity can affect how you eat, drink, and go about your day. Fortunately, this article is going to look at what tooth sensitivity is, what the causes of tooth pain and sensitivity are, and how to manage these with the help of your dentist.
What Is Tooth Pain?
Tooth pain, or toothache, describes pain in or around your teeth, in your gums, or your jaw. It might be a throbbing pain, short stabbing pain, or ache in the affected area. It might manifest as pain when drinking, or pain when eating. You might describe the pain as mild, moderate, or severe. Sometimes, it can be difficult to identify where the pain is coming from, as pain in the teeth might feel like a pain in your ear and even your sinuses.
What Is Tooth Sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity is a specific type of tooth pain that is triggered when you are exposed to certain temperatures, food, or drinks. Cold sensitivity is when your tooth aches or feels painful after eating cold food, or even being exposed to cold temperatures. You might feel pain when drinking a cold drink, or pain when eating ice cream. Similarly, drinking a hot drink may cause sensitivity. You could feel a sharp pain when you taste sour or sweet foods. Sensitivity is often experienced as a short, sharp, stabbing pain that you feel deep into your gums.
What Causes Tooth Pain?
Tooth pain is your body’s way of signaling that something isn’t right. It might be caused by inflammation related to tooth decay, or by stress-clenching your teeth at night. Read on to find out more about the common causes of tooth pain.
Tooth decay is described as one of the greatest unmet medical needs in America by the CDC. At least 90% of adults over the age of 20 have some form of tooth decay, while over 50% of those between 12 and 19 are affected. It is one of the most common reasons for tooth pain and sensitivity. Tooth decay is also known as cavities or caries.
Cavities are when the hard outer surface of your tooth develops small holes in its surface. It can be caused by poor dental hygiene, frequently drinking sugary drinks, and regular snacking between brushing your teeth, or even after brushing them. Tooth decay leads to tooth pain because holes in the outer surface can leave your teeth exposed to irritants from the oral cavity. The holes left by tooth decay directly expose the sensitive part of the tooth to bacteria from the air, food, or drink.
Symptoms Of Tooth Decay:
- Sharp, stabbing pains coming from your tooth
- Discolored yellow, brown, white, gray, or black spots on your tooth
- Sore or swollen gums
- Tooth sensitivity
An abscess can occur at the root of your tooth (a periapical abscess), your gums (a periodontal abscess), and around an impacted wisdom tooth (a pericoronal abscess). It is when a bacterial infection builds up in or around your tooth due to tooth decay or other factors. The infection leads to a build-up of pus in the affected area. You must see a dentist when you think you have an abscess, as these are serious infections that will not go away on their own.
Symptoms Of A Tooth Abscess
You may have an abscess if:
- You have intense pain in your tooth, gum, or jaw that might appear suddenly, and gradually get worse
- There is inflammation (swelling) or redness in your gums or face near the area
- You have pain that radiates from the affected area on that side of the face
- You experience difficulty lying on the side of the face where the pain is located
- You have a fever or feel ill (if the abscess goes untreated)
- You have tooth sensitivity to hot, cold, or acidic foods and beverages
- You have any of the symptoms of tooth decay
Grinding Or Clenching Teeth
Grinding your teeth, or clenching your teeth (known as bruxism), is a repetitive motion that you may carry out without realizing. It is often related to tiredness, stress, or anxiety. Childhood grinding may resolve on its own. If not resolved, grinding or clenching your teeth can gradually wear down the outer enamel of your tooth, causing tooth pain or tooth sensitivity.
Grinding or clenching your teeth can be the result of difficulty in breathing in sleep or sleep apnea, taking excessive amounts of caffeine, alcohol, or smoking. It is also a common side effect of taking drugs like ecstasy. You may even grind your teeth if you take anti-depressants.
Symptoms Of Grinding Or Clenching Your Teeth
It can be difficult to know whether you are grinding or clenching your teeth in your sleep. However, some common indicators may be:
- Worn-down or broken teeth
- Tooth pain and sensitivity
- Headache, earache, or face pain
- Shoulder pain or neck pain
- Disturbed or restless sleep
- Feeling stressed
Impacted Wisdom Teeth
If you are experiencing tooth pain at the end of your row of teeth, your wisdom teeth might be coming through. Wisdom teeth are the final set of teeth you will have as an adult, and these usually emerge between the age of 18 and 25. Wisdom teeth also can emerge much later into adult life.
Very often, wisdom teeth will come through and align perfectly with your other teeth. However, it is also common for them to have some issues coming through your gums. This can cause them to become partially impacted (the tooth is visible but partially covered by gum), or fully impacted (the tooth does not break through the gums).
Symptoms Of An Impacted Wisdom Tooth
The symptoms of an impacted wisdom tooth include:
- Red, tender, swollen or bleeding gums at the end of your row of teeth
- Swollen, painful, or aching jaw
- Bad breath, or an unpleasant taste in your mouth
- Pain or difficulty fully opening your jaw
Damaged Filling Or Cracked Tooth
If a filling is damaged, or your tooth is cracked, it can expose the inner part of your tooth or even the nerve to the outside. This can cause pain or increased tooth sensitivity. It is essential that you visit your dentist as soon as possible for treatment. Your dentist may be able to glue the tooth back on and will repair any damage to the affected filling.
Symptoms Of A Damaged Filling Or Cracked Tooth
- A cracking sound in your mouth followed by a sharp pain
- The feeling of something hard in your mouth (the tooth, or filling)
- If you run your tongue over the area, you should feel a crack or gap
- Soreness in your surrounding teeth or gums
Gum infections, or gum diseases, are caused by plaque (harmful bacteria) build-up in your mouth. It can also be caused by other conditions or hormonal changes in the body. Gum disease is caused by bacteria, and damages the soft tissue in your mouth. You must visit your dentist if you think you have gum disease, as this can affect how your teeth are fixed in your mouth.
Symptoms Of Infected Gums
- Red, tender, swollen, or bleeding gums
- Shrinking or receding gums
- Loose teeth
- Pain or bleeding when you eat hard foods
What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?
1 in 8 Americans reports having sensitive teeth. Tooth sensitivity is a side effect of many of the conditions listed above. However, the most common cause of sensitive teeth is when your enamel wears down, exposing the sensitive parts of your teeth. Your enamel is the tooth’s hard outer surface, and when it is worn down it exposes the layer beneath, known as dentin. Dentin has lots of little holes that connect to the inner, sensitive part of the tooth. This is why your teeth become more sensitive and you experience pain when eating, or pain when drinking.
You may also have sensitive teeth if you grind heavily or brush your teeth too hard. Overly strong tooth-whitening treatments can also lead to sensitive teeth. Many people think that over-brushing or using treatments can protect your teeth, but they can gradually corrode your enamel over time.
Symptoms of Tooth Sensitivity
Tooth sensitivity is not just experienced when exposed to a certain food, drink, or temperature. You may also experience sharp pain or throbbing sensation when:
- Using an alcohol mouthwash
- Brushing or flossing your teeth
- Biting down on a hard food item
- Washing your mouth with cold water (cold sensitivity)
How Can I Prevent Tooth Sensitivity and Tooth Pain?
Maintaining good oral hygiene is the best way of preventing tooth sensitivity and tooth pain. Brush your teeth, tongue, and gums twice a day for two minutes to remove harmful bacteria from your teeth. You should also try some of the steps below:
- Use desensitizing toothpaste – some toothpaste can help dampen the feeling of sensitive teeth, reducing the feeling of sensitivity over time.
- Avoid sugary drinks or foods – regularly drinking sugary drinks can corrode the lining of your enamel and cause tooth decay.
- Stop bleaching your teeth – tooth whitening treatments can strip the enamel from your teeth. Take a break from teeth whitening if your teeth are becoming sensitive.
- Address stress – if you are experiencing stress, you might be grinding your teeth at night. Take steps to address this if it’s making your teeth sensitive.
- Use a night guard – until you reduce grinding your teeth, wear a night guard to protect your teeth from the impact of clenching and grinding actions.
- Cut back on alcohol, caffeine, and smoking – all these habits can damage your teeth over time. Cut back on these to see the benefits to your teeth.
- Do not eat after brushing your teeth – brush your teeth at night, immediately before you go to bed. Do not eat or drink sugary juices after you have brushed your teeth.
- Visit your dentist – as soon as you experience tooth pain or sensitivity, visit your dentist. They will be able to advise on the best way to reduce the impact of tooth sensitivity or tooth pain.
How Will My Dentist Treat Severe Tooth Pain?
The sooner you visit your dentist, the less likely your tooth pain and any tooth sensitivity will cause substantial damage to your teeth. Some of the treatments may include:
A Filling or Crown
If your tooth pain is caused by tooth decay, worn tooth, or a cracked filling, your dentist may replace the damaged filling or place one for the first time. They will first remove the affected filling or decayed part of the tooth. Afterward, they will place a gold, porcelain, or composite material that is intended to complete the structure of the tooth again, so it can perform its regular function.
A root canal treatment is designed to treat infection at the heart of the tooth. If the pulp at the heart of the tooth has died, the infection can spread to the root canal. A root canal treatment will remove any bacteria from the affected area. The root canal of the tooth is then filled in, and then typically a crown is placed.
If your tooth is particularly damaged, or severely infected, your dentist may extract the tooth. This is the last resort in dental treatment, as it means your tooth is permanently removed from your mouth.
Treating A Sensitive Tooth
If your tooth sensitivity is caused by the wearing down of your enamel, your dentist may recommend:
- Tooth bonding – coating your tooth in a composite resin that increases its strength and creates a protective layer over enamel or dentin
- Crown – a crown is a covering that goes over your entire tooth. They are designed to protect your tooth for longer, especially when there is very little enamel left.
Don’t Put Off Visiting Your Dentist
The longer you put off tooth pain, or tooth sensitivity, the greater the risk that your teeth will be permanently damaged. Conditions like abscesses, impacted wisdom teeth, or infections will not go away over time. A quick check-up from your dentist will put your mind at rest and help reduce your tooth pain and tooth sensitivity. Contact Simple Dental today for an appointment to keep tooth pain at bay.